Lewisham Homes staff tuned into a web discussion with Holocaust survivor Susan Pollack MBE today (24 January), as part of commemorations to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January.
The webcast, organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), saw actress and campaigner Tracy-Ann Oberman interview Susan, who survived the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps in the second world war, when her native Hungary first allied with and was then occupied by Nazi Germany. Susan lost more than 50 members of her family in the Nazi death camps, including her mother and father.
At Lewisham Homes, staff gathered in our board room to first hear a personal introduction from our director of resident services, Jon Kanareck. Jon recorded a video message about his life growing up as a Jewish schoolboy in a predominantly Catholic school, and the history of antisemitism in Britain and across Europe. We then joined the national webinar along with hundreds of institutions across the country.
Susan Pollack shared her moving and at times harrowing testimony of her experience in the Holocaust, including the dehumanising impact of being transported to Auschwitz on a cattle train for six days with no food or water. She spent ten weeks in Auschwitz, was forced into slave labour, and then endured the horrors of the death march when prisoners were forced to walk to Belsen, during which many perished.
After the war, Susan moved to Canada and began a family. She has dedicated her life to educating people about the Holocaust and the dehumanising nature of hateful rhetoric. The talk concluded with a call to remember we have the ability and a duty to act when we see racism and hatred. As part of an organisation dedicated to equality, diversity and inclusion, that is a message we can all endorse.
This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day has the theme ‘Stand Together’ and marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. You can find out more about the day on the Holocaust Educational Trust website, and a memorial concert is being held at the Broadway Theatre on Sunday 26 January. All tickets are £1 with half of that going to charity. You can find out more and book tickets here.